The preacher says, “And only if he had walked out of that room, it all would’ve been different.”
The church nods, of course. Everyone agrees that getting your eyes gouged out by uncircumcised Philistines is pretty much an undesirable thing.
He adds, “He totally missed out on God’s Perfect Plan. All those blessings, gone.”
It’s a good way to increase offering. Keep the people scared, guilty, guessing, confused. You thought you would never see people fighting for the offering plate.
I remember first attending church those years ago, seeking for truth, hearing the preacher fire arrows at the drunks, the addicts, the divorced, the criminals, the perverts — and I kept thinking, But I’m that guy. I’m the guy he keeps talking about. That loser is me.
Sometimes the preacher reams on the consequences: but many of us are still living through them.
Might as well be yelling, Yeah, screw those guys! Those wicked, baby-hating, Wizard-of-Oz-loving, liberal-commie, vegan-environmentalist pagans! Am I right? Huh? The church keeps nodding.
But where is the grace for them? Does God love them less somehow? How does God feel when we fall off His Will?
I must have heard this in a hundred sermons:
If only he had _____, then he would’ve been blessed.
If only Samson had left Delilah.
If only Abraham and Sarah had waited.
If only Peter would’ve trusted Jesus.
If only Martha could stop fussing.
If only David didn’t rape a woman and kill her husband.
If only Paul wasn’t such a murderer.
I understand that we have a human responsibility before God to give him the honor that He is due, and it’s always true we’re missing out when we don’t. We know there are consequences for our disobedience. At times on this earth, we don’t get second chances or another opportunity — many times that door will close.
But with God, who loves unlike anything we could possibly fathom with our three pound brain, the door never closes.
If we believe He is absolutely sovereign — in control of everything — then He’s glorified no matter what we do. That doesn’t mean we act a fool: because in the end, God would rather be glorified through you. But He’s not panicking in Heaven right now over us tiny humans falling off His Will. He still uses that. He’s still sovereign regardless of all our rebellious flailing. While you’re making plans, He has a plan.
To the drunks, addicts, divorced, criminals, perverts, and losers like me: God has grace for you all the way home. Even on your deathbed, when your whole life has been about all the wrong things, God still beckons you to eternal life. He’s really that good.
Our hearts immediately say that’s too much grace.
You remember the two thieves crucified with Jesus. One believed the grace; the other didn’t. One understood the perfect sacrificial love that did not come cheap, that it cost the innocent Son of a Heavenly Father. The other did what we often do: diminished God’s love into a selective, categorical power. Save us! he yelled, by extension hoping that Jesus would destroy the people down below.
That’s a stingy sort of grace, as if Jesus only died for the right people. He had nails in both hands, you know.
And even for that second thief: I believe God loved him until the very end.
I’m hoping your view of God’s love is bigger than your exhaustion. Bigger than the end of your perseverance. Just because you’re tired of hearing peoples’ confessions of consequences doesn’t mean God is tired, too. It only energizes Him. That prodigal who has been given a dozen welcome-home dinners: I hope you’re ready for a dozen more.
If your church isn’t full of messed up people, there’s no grace there: because they’re too scared to be honest and messy. Of course the church is a holy sanctuary for the saints — and it’s also a safe haven for the hurting.
Don’t despise the sick in your hospital. Jesus came for them. They might refuse His Will for a season, but God has enough blessings to go around.